Can I go camping? Latest advice as lockdown restrictions eased

·5-min read
Camping near Buttermere, Lake District - istock
Camping near Buttermere, Lake District - istock

With lockdown restrictions easing, many are anticipating an escape to the great outdoors to clear the cobwebs. Here, we outline the latest rules and guidelines on camping holidays this summer.

Campsites, caravans sites and holiday parks in England are once more able to open now that we have reached the latest significant milestone in the roadmap out of lockdown.

It's a welcome bit of news for the many who have been yearning for an escape these last few months, and demand for pitching space this spring has rocketed as cooped-up city-dwellers head out in search of fresh air.

But things aren't quite back to normal for camping holidays just yet. There are still tight restrictions around who you can travel or stay with, while rules on the use of shared facilities mean that many site operators will not be able to reopen for at least another month.

Here, we answer all your key questions.

This page will be updated as and when guidance changes.

Where can I go?

England and Wales have both lifted their respective stay-at-home orders and sanctioned the reopening of self-catered accommodation. This means that those living in England can travel to Wales for a holiday, and vice versa. Scotland still has restrictions on travel from the rest of the UK, and these are expected to remain in place until April 26 at the earliest. It is believed that Scottish campsites will be given the go-ahead to resume business on the same date. Stay-at-home restrictions in Northern Ireland have now been lifted, but no dates have yet been given for the reopening of tourism businesses.

In terms of the sites at which you are now able to stay, any self-catering business that does not require guests to use shared facilities may reopen. Unfortunately this excludes a great many campsites where showers and lavatories are housed in communal blocks. According to Government guidelines, these will not be permitted to reopen until May 17 at the earliest.

Are people booking yet?

Certainly. Camping saw something of a boom this time last year, when the end of the first lockdown was announced. This year is no different. Bookings site has reported a 191% sales increase for April to September stays compared to this time in 2019, rising to 393% for stays in July and August., which covers more than 3,000 camping grounds around the UK, reported a surge in online traffic almost immediately following the Prime Minister's roadmap announcement on Monday 22 February. Bookings have also spiked, and sales are currently 250% above normal levels for this time of year.

The Southwest is proving most popular destination for campers, with Cornwall, Devon, Dorset and Somerset consecutively taking the top four spots. Cumbria, Pembrokeshire, Derbyshire and Kent also rank high on people's wishlists.

Have all the pitches been booked?

Not yet. says it still has 41% availability in its most popular destination – Cornwall – over the May bank holiday week, and a similar amount over the summer. This naturally means that there's even more choice in less sought-after locations, with up to 80% of pitches available in Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and Shropshire.

The amount of available camping space is also likely to increase as we head into summer. The Government has relaxed the law on informal campsites, so any landowner is now able to hire out pitches for 56 days of the year – double the pre-pandemic limit. Most are waiting for the bumper crowds that come during the school holidays, so expect new sites to go on sale soon.

Is it safe?

Most campsites are already well set up for social distancing, with acres of space in which people can pitch their tents and move around without coming too close to their fellow campers. To be on the safe side, the Government has still told campsites they must clearly mark out pitches at a safe distance from one another. There are still some problem areas: for instance, what is the best way to tackle shared facilities such as kitchens, showers and lavatories?

The situation is a little easier for caravan and motorhome owners. By and large these are already equipped for a self-contained lifestyle – and pitches are already more than two metres apart for fire safety reasons – so there will be little to no need to come into contact with others.

What safety measures are there?

Campsite operators have had ample opportunity improve their systems and hygiene regimens over the summer, so most, if not all, should be well-versed in their various new safety rules. The Government issued special guidance for campsites and holiday parks last year, so reputable sites will all be conforming to the same advice. Contact between staff and guests is reduced to an absolute minimum, as will interaction between campers. For sites with shared facilities (which is most of them), some of the larger ones have been able to introduce one-way systems; others have managed to get by with marked queues and time-slots for showers and toilets. Parents are responsible for making sure their children observce social distancing rules.

Camping garden
Camping garden

Visit Britain has collaborated with Government on developing a Covid-secure kitemark called 'We're good to go'. Any tourism business displaying this will have demonstrated that it has implemented all recommended hygiene and safety procedures.

What if there is a new wave of outbreaks?

Of course, consumers should be wary of any changes to the Government’s lockdown plan that could see reopening dates pushed further back. But a number of campsites, holiday parks and other hospitality businesses have now introduced coronavirus guarantees, generally allowing free transfer or cancellation of booking dates if restrictions are extended or reimposed. Be sure to check before booking.

Where do you hope to go camping now restrictions have lifted? Tell us in the comments section below.

campsite facilities - getty
campsite facilities - getty
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